I look forward to summer vacation every year. My kids are in school all year - starting in mid-August until late May - and it's always fun to have them home for vacation from school. About six years ago, when we moved into our new home, I realized that I had several friends who didn't have a backyard for their kids to run outside during the summer and play. I thought that must be difficult with little ones and their energy - and living in an apartment all summer could sure get to feeling all cooped up!
That's when I decided to start my own little ministry called "Backyard Thursdays". I asked my hubby, who didn't mind at all, if I could just invite all my friends who had no yard to come over every Thursday morning with their kiddos to play in our yard each week. We've been doing it every summer, ever since! My kids LOVE Backyard Thursdays because it's like a huge play-date every week!
Now I have extended Backyard Thursdays to any friends who want to come, usually from church, but if they want to bring a neighbor/friend they are welcome, as this is a good opportunity to share the Gospel if they don't know the Lord. We Mommies sit under our large avocado trees in our yard, where I have lots of benches and seating in the shade, and fellowship and chat. What a blessed time we have, too. So many kids come and my children have learned to use it as a ministry of sharing their things. I am so amazed how they've grown to understand sharing their things, too.
We have rules - a list of all the "do's and don'ts" because we've seen our share of reckless play and behavior. But, most of the kids figure out all the rules by the second week and we rarely have a problem. I don't allow the kids in the house - since it IS Backyard Thursday, not "in my house" Thursday. We have a bathroom just inside the back door they are welcome to use. I've encouraged the Moms to bring their own snacks or lunch for the kids. I have a time limit - 10-12:30 PM - as having a group all day long is quite taxing on everyone. It works well, the children are tired when they go home and sleep well for naptime! The kids all have to pick up after themselves, share, and be kind.
What's amazing is that others have started using their yards during the summer, as well. We have two others that have opened their yards with pools for others from church to use. It is a blessing for those who have no way to get to a pool. Again, there are rules and expectations to be careful with others' things, but it's a good lesson for all of us to learn to take care of others' things and be a blessing back to them.
Have you ever thought to use your pool or yard as a ministry opportunity to others?